Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pasta con Vongole -- My Recipe

I adapted this recipe for Pasta con Vongole from a recipe in the Time-Life book, Foods of the World (1968). It's a favorite in our house, because it's delicious, fast, and easy. Can't beat that!

I usually serve this dish with a side vegetable, like broccoli (sauteed in olive oil, with grindings of black pepper). Add garlic bread, and a nice white wine (e.g., pinot grigio), and you have a very satisfying, and healthy meal.

Here we go (I can do this in 30 min, but I've had a lot of practice).

First, get your pot of water on the heat.

Chop 2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic (depending on how much you like garlic), and set aside.

Open 2 small cans of chopped (not minced) clams, or buy 3 dozen fresh clams and shuck them, saving the juice (making this recipe a lot less "fast and easy"). Drain the clam juice into a measuring cup and set aside the juice and clams.

Pour 1/4 cup dry white wine and set aside (also pour yourself a glass of pinot grigio to sample while you cook; it makes the process seem to go faster)

Chop about 2 or 3 tbs fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley (regular old garden-variety parsley will do, but you won't experience the robust taste you get from the Italian variety). Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 4 tbs of olive oil (I use regular, not virgin) and 1 tbs butter (don't substitute margarine -- this is an Italian recipe). Before the oil-butter mixture starts to smoke, add the chopped garlic and stir constantly for a few SECONDS -- don't allow it to burn (like this guy). Immediately add the clam juice (not the clams) and white wine, turn up the heat to high, and boil off the liquid until you have about 3/4 cup left in the skillet. Immediately remove the skillet from the heat.

Your pot of water should be boiling by now. Add 1 lb of linguine (you can substitute a common, long-noodle spaghetti, or flat-noodle fettuccine, or any number of pasta varieties). Add the pasta about 1/4 lb at a time to keep the water boiling. Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 9 to 11 minutes. Test it by cutting a strand against the inside of the pot, or by lifting a strand and tasting it (my method). It should be al dente, -- slightly resistant to the bite. Remember, hot pasta will keep cooking even after you drain it (so err on the side of removing it from the boiling water a little before you think it's done). Immediately drain the pasta and transfer it to a heated serving bowl.

Toss the pasta with 1 tbs of soft butter and season it with salt and white pepper (I also add a few sprinklings of red pepper flakes, but I'm Sicilian).

Put the skillet with the clam broth mixture back on the heat and add the clams. Heat them for 1 or 2 minutes, whisking them around to ensure they're evenly heated (don't cook them too long, or they'll take on the consistency of rubber).

Pour the clams and sauce over the pasta, and mix together with a large fork and your pasta spoon.

Sprinkle on a little freshly ground parmigiano cheese (put a bowl of the cheese on the table to add to taste), and then add the fresh parsley. I also like to add a few sliced grape tomatoes, mostly because I like the way the dish looks that way (but it also adds another flavor to savor).

When every one's served and you're ready to eat, raise your glass of wine and say, "Salute!"

Buon appetito!

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